After spending a lot of time honing a craft within a specific system or scheme, change might not be welcomed. However, for Sae Tautu the switch from Will linebacker in a 3-4 defense to defensive end in BYU’s new 4-3 defensive scheme hasn’t been much of a change at all.
“I’m excited for it. It hasn’t been too big of a change for me because the open end in a 4-3 is kind of like what a Will linebacker does in a 3-4,” said Tautu. “For me the job is very similar.”
However, there are subtle differences that even Tautu jokingly admits.
“Yeah, you gotta put your hand on the ground,” Tautu said with a chuckle. “There is a different stance but it’s a quick learning curve. You have to now put your hand down like a real defensive end. I am, however, kind of messing with both putting my hand on the ground and standing up as a pass rusher. On our first day of practice I was just kind of feeling it out seeing which one feels best for me.”
With BYU transitioning over to a 4-3 defensive alignment, Tautu, along with the rest of the defensive linemen, are now playing different gap responsibilities while learning techniques to sustain their gap integrity.
“There’s a difference now in our defense,” said Tautu. “We used to be a two-gapping defense where we had Travis Tuiloma, who was just a monster at nose guard, playing in the middle. Then our whole defense kind of revolved around him and how well he played that position. Now everyone just has one gap and it’s a lot easier to control the line of scrimmage because we have more guys doing it.”
Tautu is now playing the five-technique, which means he’s shading off the offensive tackle’s outside shoulder. His gap responsibilities change to a nine-technique, however, when a tight end is attached to the line of scrimmage.
“I’m in a five- or a nine-technique depending on whether there is a tight end or not,” said Tautu. “Then the other guys will be in a one-, five-, or eight-technique depending on the situation.”
Basically, that means Tautu plays the outside gap position of either the tackle or tight end.
“Yeah, there are some differences now, but like I said those differences transition well for me because I played Will linebacker,” said Tautu.
Having played the position of Will linebacker in the 3-4 scheme under Bronco Mendenhall, Tautu felt the transition to a more traditional 4-3 defense would suit him well as a pass rusher given his size.
“I’m the biggest linebacker we have besides Harvey Langi, who is playing in the middle,” said Tautu. “I’ve played the edge in our old system so playing in the new system is an easy adjustment for me, size-wise and skill-wise. I’m 245-pounds right now and I’m seeing if I can still move. I was 230 last season so I’ve added weight. I want to continue to get bigger while keeping my speed.”
When BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki barks out a defensive call, Tautu, much like the rest of his teammates, pause for just a moment to think.
“Learning the schemes and the jobs that we’re supposed to do is not so hard, but in my mind when the coaches call out a new call I have to think about it,” chuckled Tautu. “I have to translate it from the old call into what is now the new call. I’m used to Bronco’s calls, which I’ve had down for four years now. I have to translate it in my head now. It’ll come quicker as spring ball continues on and I’ll get it down a lot faster to where that won’t be the case.”
Tautu has caught himself pausing in a rather comical fashion in one instance on the first day of spring ball. Having former tailback Francis Bernard on the defensive side of the ball caught him off-guard on day one.
“It’s nice having him on our side of the ball,” said Tautu with a laugh. “I don’t have to take on blocks and try to tackle that big dude any more. It was funny because in our first practice I dropped back into coverage and I saw Francis. I just ran and started covering him. He’s on my side of the ball now! I guess it’s just another adjustment I have to make I have to make seeing him on my side of the ball now. It’s good to have him.”
BYU spring camp will be a time in which the players will spend much of their time honing their skills within a new schematic foundation. It’s an arduous task that requires focus and constant adjustments.
“In the early part of spring camp we’re focusing on just fundamentals and technique,” Tautu said. “We’re trying to put in our new schemes and it takes time to coordinate 123 guys to do the same thing. It’s mostly now just learning your fundamentals and techniques within the scheme so that we can build upon that. So far it’s been good.”